Somehow, you’ve stumbled upon this little corner of the Internet. Now you’re trying to figure out exactly what’s happening here. Giddy-up. Let’s go.
Who runs this site?
I’m John Agliata. I am a professional storyteller, expert father and husband, certified life coach, decent boys basketball coach, amateur comedian and a good faker at a whole lot of other stuff. I do the whole LinkedIn thing to showcase my professional life. So this is who I am there:
Owner of a unique right-brain/left-brain combination. Stellar data-driven strategic planner. Insanely creative mind. Content-generating machine. Dedicated to anticipating future opportunities and capitalizing on them through innovative strategy and inspiring collateral while proactively eliminating barriers to success. Builder and leader of cross-functional teams. Expert at negotiating conflict. The person people turn to when they need to get stuff done right and fast — and when they need a laugh to lighten the mood. Careful crafter of culture. Leader. Collaborator. Motivator. Supporter.
So yeah. There’s that.
I’m starting to really hate social media, but I recognize it as a necessary-right-now evil to try to make my dreams happen.
And I like bacon. I mean, I really like bacon.
What’s up with the site’s name?
Telling Stories to Live is part of a quote by author Joan Didion in her 1979 book, The White Album, which looks at the upheaval in the 1960s and some of its leading figures, such as Charles Manson and the Blank Panthers:
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live. We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the ‘ideas’ with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.”
I love this quote because it hits on something I believe deeply: Life makes no sense.
We as human beings simply can’t understand our existence unless we craft the events that shape it into something we’re familiar with. This, I believe, is part nurture but oh-so-much-more nature. Our brains are hardwired to make sense of that which we can’t understand, and so it puts things in order — beginning, middle and end. Until we do that with a life event, we have no satisfying arc to bring us comfort
Going through hardship? We turn it into a story in which there is some mysterious reason for whatever is troubling us so that we have hope we will find some reward for our struggle.
Experiencing a victory? When we tell others of it, we don’t just say “Here’s my triumph.” We craft it into a narrative that shows a journey from there to here, complete with all the messy stuff in the middle. Think Rocky. There’s a pug club fighter; there’s a training montage; there’s a victory.
So yes, we tell stories to live … because without stories, our lives make no sense.
What about the ‘I’m dreaming for a living’ thing?
So yes, I love quotes. Many of the sections on this site are themed off of others’ witticisms. “I’m dreaming for a living” is the theme of Cinematics because it was said by movie producer Steven Spielberg.
“I don’t dream at night, I dream at day, I dream all day; I’m dreaming for living.”
That’s a pretty good way to look at movie-making. Heck, it’s a pretty good way to look at your life if you’re involved in any sort of creative endeavor in which you’re conjuring something from nothing.
How is graphic design ‘Intelligence made visible?’
This quote is often incorrectly attributed to Alina Wheeler, a design director and brand consultant. It was first said by Lou Danziger, a noted graphic designer. And it’s true. There is so much more to good design work than throwing a bunch of pretty stuff on the page. What is so often missed by non-marketing-types is that every single thing in a design is intentional and is designed to make you feel. The font choice, its size, the location of a copy block, the choice of each word, the color scheme… everything is done for a reason.
If you don’t have a reason for something in a design, it probably shouldn’t be there until you figure it out.
Design is a visual representation of not only the designer’s intelligence, but the audience’s intelligence. Good design works because it helps people craft narratives that make sense. (Sound familiar?)
Once something makes sense in a person’s heart and mind (more the former than the latter), they are more likely to act in a manner you as a marketer would like them to act.
Do you really have a Donald Trump quote on your site?
“It’s one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”Donald J. Trump, Jan. 21, 2020
You see, I am not from China. And I still don’t have my Longhaul COVID under control. And it’s not just fine.
So bingo: There’s the title for “Longhauler: A COVID Diary.”
What’s up with all these other people contributing on your site?
They’re my friends. Or my relatives. Or relatives of my friends. Or friends of my relatives.
But are they real?
Well, let’s talk about what it means for something to be “real.”
Let me quote Morpheus from The Matrix
“If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”
Essentially, something exists if it has energy. And the likes of Q.F. Conseco (my hippie California relative), “Pissed Off” Paulie Magnotti (my East Coast “Uncle”) and Lucy Robertson-Rosenblatt (my friend from back in the day) — they all, indeed, have energy.
Do they walk around and breathe air and eat food and take up space. Sure they do. As much as the person writing to you now does.
We’re all made up of different voices. Very, very, very few of us are, for example, the exact same at work and at home. Or with our spouse and our friends. Or at a fancy restaurant and a professional football game. Accepting that as truth, who is the real you? It’s foolish to try to pick one of those “personas,” because doing so would invalidate all the others.
Are you being “fake” at work because that’s not how you are when you are with your spouse? OK. So your spouse gets the real you? All the time? Are you sure?
Are you “playing a role” when you’re at the fancy restaurant — or is that the “real” you and the “role” is being played at the football game?
The point is this: None of is any one anything. We’re all chameleons. Some of us just indulge the various personas who make us us a little more creatively.
And so Q.F. is the free-natured Hippie who, in many ways, rejects an upbringing he’s not all that comfortable with and who sees the events of the day partially because of that upbringing and partially in spite of it.
Pissed Off Paulie is angry. All. The. Time. The little annoying things everyone just accepts as being part of the world are unacceptable to him, and he’s gonna let you know why.
Lucy’s focus is on giving advice to others, but she might not be so great at managing her own life.
Solace struggles to make her voice heard — and has a bit of a “password protected” secret side to her.
And Brian Goode? Man, he just likes to chill with some music and fall into the world of sound.
Those folks are all real.
So who are your “folks?” Have you ever thought about giving them a face? A past? A purpose? Do you ever wonder what would happen if you put one of them in charge of the tribe for a few days? Have you considered how such a disparate group of voices can somehow coexist, how all of them are necessary for you to be you? Maybe give some time to exploring that.
OK, so now what?
So now I hope you go enjoy what there is to do here. If you haven’t read this…
… it might be a good idea.
And then… well, have fun! (And spread the word by sharing all this fun stuff!)
The Last 54 Things Posted
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Musical History🎹Why Write? 🖊️Loser Level😔 We finally have only one piano in our house! Now, don’t get to thinking we’re this uber-musical family. We’re not. Wifey Poo, from what I hear, was a helluva clarinetist back in her day and did, indeed, take piano lessons. Boy The Elder is really goodContinue reading “One-Piano Family — May 22, 2022”
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Beyond Tired😫Busting Ass 🐝Covid Sadness😔 Everything is knowable. When I look back at the pace of change in my life, I think that’s the biggest difference between my life as a child and my life as an adult. Back then, if you wondered something, you just … wondered it. I mean,Continue reading “Knowing — May 21, 2022”
Welcome to Songs of Significance, chronicling the songs that have helped shape me and people across generations. Fade to Black, Metallica, from the 1984 album, Ride the Lightning Line of Significance Things not what they used to be/Missing one inside of me/Deathly loss, this can’t be real/I cannot stand this hell I feel The commonContinue reading “SoS16: Fade to Black”
Ryan Lee (MMM ’16) talks about how Northwestern’s MMM program prepared him for his work as senior director of product management with Hologram, an Internet of Things startup. Published May 17, 2022 Ryan Lee spent more than five years as a consultant, and he enjoyed helping clients solve their business and technology challenges. But heContinue reading “Designing IoT Products to Connect the World”
Current student Raj Shekhar Madhurakavi talks about the lessons he’s learned in the MEM program as he prepares for graduation and a new role as senior program manager at Mathworks. Published May 17, 2022 Raj Shekhar Madhurakavi is ready to change the world. Shekhar will begin working this July as a senior program manager atContinue reading “An Eight-Point Plan For Success”
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sad Anniversary😞My Back! 😳Dachau😭 Thirty-five years ago today, my first grandparent died. Grandpa was my favorite grandparent, and in looking back, I think it was because of his willingness to join my world. Grandpa played games with me endlessly. He taught me how to play rummy. He would spend hours onContinue reading “Grandpa — May 17, 2022”
What makes a good coach? Interesting question, but it’s the wrong one. Oh, that question has all the right words. They’re just in the wrong order. If you want to talk about what makes a good coach, we can list a bunch of coach-worthy attributes — things such as charisma, assertiveness, fairness, consistency. But again,Continue reading “The One Thing That Makes a Coach ‘Good’”
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Bye-Bye BTE✈️Rival Riot Rumble 🤼♂️Old Man John🤕 In a few hours, Boy The Elder will board a plane headed for Germany. He just completed his sophomore year at Mizzou, and now he’s going overseas for a two-week study-abroad session in which he’ll allegedly learn more about food science and fermentation andContinue reading “Study Abroad — May 15, 2022”
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Double-U🧸Big Sis 🦸♀️Preggo Healer 🤰 Anyone remember Speak & Spell? If you’ve seen E.T., you’ve seen it before. Don’t know why, but I was thinking about this toy the other day. For some reason, spelling wasn’t school if you had one of these things to play with. I can still hearContinue reading “Family — May 13, 2022”
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Heat Wave🥵Lawn Mowing🚜Last Podcast 🎙️ It’s hotter than balls outside in my section of Missourah, and I’m not happy about it. I am not a hot-weather person. I hate heat. I sweat easily. I turn red even easier. Having a bald head does not match well with sun exposure. And hasContinue reading “Heat Wave — May 12, 2022”
Denny Hsieh applies lessons from Northwestern Engineering’s Master of Project Management (MPM) program into his daily work at Intel. Published May 10, 2022 Denny Hsieh speaks candidly when he discusses his skills as a presenter prior to starting the capstone communication project in Northwestern Engineering’s Master of Project Management (MPM) program. “I was pretty bad,”Continue reading “Making Sense of the Magic”
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Friends😔What To Do?🙋Creepy Dolls 🎎 Yesterday was a rough day. It’s one thing to be a person with essentially no friends. It’s another thing altogether to not be friends with yourself. That’s where I was yesterday — all up in my head and imagining the worst was about to happen inContinue reading “Wherever You Go … — May 10, 2022”
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Losing Money 🥊The Best F’N Mom Ever👩Heat 🥵 Wifey Poo and I took our weekly date Saturday and went to the city made famous in the original National Lampoon’s Vacation movie: East St. Louis. No, East St. Louis isn’t in Missouri and no, it’s not a popular data destination, but whatContinue reading “Gambling — May 8, 2022”
Welcome to Songs of Significance, chronicling the songs that have helped shape me and people across generations. So Far Away, Staind, from the 2003 album, 14 Shades of Grey Line of Significance Now that we’re here it’s so far away/And I feel like I can face the day, and I can forgive/And I’m not ashamedContinue reading “SoS15: So Far Away”
I have absolutely zero formal training when it comes to planning events. Before this became part of my job duties, I hadn’t planned so much as a birthday party for my child. Of course, I have zero formal training for a lot of the things I do in my job as a marketer and communicator.Continue reading “Top 3 Super-Secret Event Planning Tips”
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩One Long Sentence 🖊️Birthday Boy🎂Wine & Chocolate 🍷🍫 I remember being a kid and wanting to be an adult. I wanted to drive and have a girlfriend and be able to do whatever it was that I wanted to do, not what someone else said I should do. And now, hereContinue reading “Relentlessness — May 5, 2022”
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Ink Stain 🖊️Big Week 🎂Gas Pumps 😂 If getting a link of ink right across the front of your shirt while trying to catch a falling pen isn’t one of the Mondayest of Monday things that can happen to a dude, I’m sure there aren’t too many things that can beatContinue reading “Monday Things — May 2, 2022”
One of the great paradoxes COVID revealed in the human animal is how much we need each other while we simultaneously can’t stand to be around each other for long periods of time. Stay-at-home orders booted us from our familiar social circles and, in many cases, put is in direct contact with those we loveContinue reading “A Human Paradox”
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Tater Tots🥔The Waffle House League🧇The Baseball Speech ⚾ There’s a reason why baseball was America’s pastime and now is sinking in popularity. Baseball is different from other sports. It has a pace unlike today’s more popular games. It’s meant to be savored, not downed like a shot. Yes, it’s gone fromContinue reading “The Power of Baseball — May 1, 2022”
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Truth ⚖️The Poor Man’s Chipotle🌮Jokes 🤣 Anyone else get sucked in by the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial? I’m not quite sure how it happened, but I did. This is extremely odd because Hollywood culture and all things pop culture in general annoy the crap about of me. There’s just something aboutContinue reading “Johnny Depp and Libel — April 29, 2022”
Soul Comforts A just-because gift An accidental nap Shared fries A hidden note, found A joined passion A soft hand Communicated desires A hug, freely given A safe landing place A secluded table Memory-filled songs Appreciation, openly stated Take me away from here Take me away Take me Take A common blanket A slow danceContinue reading “Soul Comforts”
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩What A Game ⚾Brain Power 🧠Stupid People 🤣 The Best Damn Real Estate Team on Either Side of the Mississippi spent much of the day yesterday inside a luxury suite at Busch Stadium, as the Cardinals took on the New York Mets. The game had a little bit of everything —Continue reading “Baseball, Brawls and Booze — April 28, 2022”
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Shanghai Surprise 👖Baseball Game ⚾Lawyer Joke😜 On March 27, I ordered some pants. I fully admit I went through Indochino because of its ads on The Tony Kornheiser Show podcast. Marketing works, folks. I’d ordered two custom-made pairs (not pair, Michael) before, and they are great. So I added some khakisContinue reading “Where Are My Pants? — April 27, 2022”
Welcome to Songs of Significance, chronicling the songs that have helped shape me and people across generations. One, Metallica, from the 1988 album, And Justice For All Line of Significance Darkness/Imprisoning me/All that I see/Absolute horror/I cannot live/I cannot die/Trapped in myself/Body my holding cell Metallica had a dedicated fan base of headbangers before One.Continue reading “SoS14: One”
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Marketing Earth Day 🌎Lifeshit 💩Mawwiage 🪢 Happy Earth Day. I love that we celebrate a planet that demonstrates in so many ways how much it doesn’t like us. Today, The Best Damn Real Estate Team on Either Side of the Mississippi is doing a highway cleanup project, so I’ll be onContinue reading “Earth Day and Marriage — April 22, 2022”
MBP director Danielle Tullman-Ercek and two current students talked about the American Chemical Society’s massive spring gathering and how Northwestern Engineering’s Master of Biotechnology Program (MBP) is preparing students for new trends and innovations. Published April 20, 2022 There was a lot of “new” for Olivia Meyer and Byron Fan when they attended the AmericanContinue reading “Seeing the Science in Person”
Bridget McMullan (MPD2 ’17) is using her MPD2 knowledge to meet member needs as director of product strategy at Anthem, America’s largest for-profit health insurer. Published April 20, 2022 Bridget McMullan expected that falsified or lost COVID-19 vaccine cards would be a problem for the public once vaccinations became available. As the director of productContinue reading “Designing Products People Love”
Anna Garverick talks about her experience creating a robot that remains centered on a moving ball and the most important lessons she took away from the experience. Published April 20, 2022 The night before Anna Garverick was to present her independent project for Northwestern Engineering’s Master of Science in Robotics (MSR) program, she learned aContinue reading “What I Learned Creating A Self-Balancing Robot”
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩 A Humbling Sport⚾A Kick-Ass Trophy🐴Punk ⛓️ Happy 4/20. This edition of A Puzzle Known As Life is delivered in an edible format, and you’ll feel the effects of all the awesome in about 45 minutes. Enjoy. Boy The Younger had a baseball game last night. It was a cold, windyContinue reading “The Boy Playing Baseball — April 20, 2022”
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩 Why We Suck🤡No Finishing Power🔚McReally? 🍔 The world is dumb, and America is the leading idiot. I don’t reach this conclusion with any sort of glee. It’s simply what I see. Societies hold together because of three things. Shared stories Strong institutions Social networks that engender trust. The past 10Continue reading “It’s the End of the World As We Know It — April 19, 2022”
Published April 13, 2022 Back in January, we gazed into The Official Allen Brake Team Housing Market Crystal Ball and asked the question “Is the housing market about to crash?” Now that we’re a quarter of the way through 2022, let’s take a look back at our prognostications and see how close we are soContinue reading “An April Look At Our 2022 Housing Market Predictions￼”
Published March 23, 2022 It sounds too good to be true: Boot up the old Google machine, punch in some data about the home you’re looking to sell and whammo! Have an all-cash offer in less than 24 hours. While it’s a possibility with sites like Offerpad and Opendoor, the old adage holds true: If itContinue reading “iBuyer Beware: How Sellers Lose￼”
Published March 8, 2022 Another day, another crash for a company once believed to have special insight into the real estate industry. This time it is mortgage lending start-up Better.com, which announced in early March it was laying off nearly half its workforce after stumbling mightily in a shifting housing market. Its decision to axContinue reading “Inside The Better.Com Debacle￼”
Published March 7, 2022 George Orwell’s famous book “1984″ came out 35 years before the dystopian world in which the author imagined a government that is watching you – always watching you. Now, more than 35 years after Orwell’s imaginary future, Zillow has made it a reality with people doing nothing more devious than searching forContinue reading “Big Brother Zillow Is Watching You￼”
Published March 7, 2022 When James Micioni passed away in 2020 at the age of 97, he left a long-forgotten investment for his family to uncover – a collection of more than 1,000 vintage baseball cards, including one signed by Babe Ruth. What was purchased for mere pennies as a boy had grown to beContinue reading “What’s Your Hidden Investment Worth?”
Thomas Sparks embraces the chaos of life as a full-time IT professional and part-time MSIT student in pursuit of his dream job. Published March 9, 2022 Evenings for Thomas Sparks can be a bit chaotic. As a student in Northwestern Engineering’s Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) part-time program, he can easily spend twoContinue reading “Mastering the Work-School Juggling Act”
Published March 15, 2022 Andrew Benintende, MD, has witnessed the tragic consequences when a human body rejects a transplanted organ. His goal is to stop that rejection from happening. Dr. Benintende is taking time away from his general surgery residency at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City to perform research at NorthwesternContinue reading “Regrowing Hope for Transplant Patients”
Students in Northwestern’s Engineering Design Innovation (EDI) program collaborated with the company known for its Roomba® vacuum cleaner to address new business opportunities. Published April 14, 2022 Visitors to the iRobot website are greeted by a picture of a Roomba cleaning a living room floor on its own. The robot vacuum is the most famousContinue reading “Helping iRobot Become a Tech Lifestyle Brand”
Part-time student Kanika Singh talks about the lessons she’s learned in Northwestern Engineering’s Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) program and how the program helped her move into a leadership role at her company. Published March 25, 2022 Kanika Singh was a learning technologies analyst at the global law firm DLA Piper when sheContinue reading “MSIT Skillset Lands Current Student with New Job”
Andy Lin talks about his role at the major biotech company and his role as a mentor on the Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) for Northwestern Engineering’s Master of Biotechnology Program (MBP). Published April 15, 2022 Andy Lin knows what it takes to be successful in the rapidly evolving biotechnology industry. As the technical development teamContinue reading “Shaping Biotech’s Future, at Genentech and MBP”
Joanna Szymel (EMDC ‘20) talks about launching her own construction and consulting firm as an EMDC student, thanks in part to a professor’s simple comment. Published March 25, 2022 A twist on a familiar saying helped Joanna Szymel determine the next stage of her career. As a new student in Northwestern Engineering’s Master of ScienceContinue reading “The Question That Defined a Career”
Diane Zimmer (MPM ’97, EMDC ’14) has built a 20-plus-year career in the construction industry, thanks in large part to her willingness to ignore suggestions of what she should do professionally. Published April 13, 2022 One of Diane Zimmer’s favorite pieces of career advice is that sometimes it’s important not to listen to other people’sContinue reading “What Happens When You Ignore Career Advice”
Naveed Asem’s new MSIT mini-course will unveil how to responsibly shape the future with emerging technology. Published April 15, 2022 Naveed Asem said the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) has put humanity at a crossroads. In his opinion, those who embrace AI now will thrive in the future; people who don’t take it seriously willContinue reading “Embracing Artificial Intelligence and Automation”
MSIT IAB Chairman Kevin Glynn talks about next-generation technological innovations and how MSIT is preparing students to leverage them in the future. Published April 15, 2022 When Kevin Glynn thinks about the future of information technology, his mind goes to quantum computing. Glynn, who is the chairman of Northwestern Engineering’s Master of Science and InformationContinue reading “Understanding Tomorrow’s Technology Solutions Today”
A recent MEM event with the American Association of Engineers of Indian Origin (AAEIO) helps students focus on finding their way in a post-digital world. Published April 15, 2022 Students from Northwestern’s Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program gathered earlier this year to learn how to shape their careers in a world where technology andContinue reading “Next-Generation Career Development”
EDI advisory board member Kevin Bethune’s new book, Reimagining Design, reflects the optimism he brings to design during times of exponential change. Published April 7, 2022 There is an aspirational nature that exists among most designers, a common feeling of optimism that design can make things better, that design can make life better. KKevin BethuneContinue reading “Designing with Curiosity, Bravery, and Optimism”
MEM student Usman Rafiq is helping humankind’s latest space exploration efforts. Published April 15, 2022 Usman Rafiq is part of humankind’s quest to reach faraway frontiers. As a member of Northwestern’s Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program, Rafiq is honing the skills he needs to push himself into higher leadership positions to help guide NASA’sContinue reading “Missions: Mars and the Moon”
Time is a fascinating concept to me. I’ve written about it before, but it just seems so arbitrary sometimes. It amazes me how we can suck at it so badly that we have to add an entire extra day every four years to keep our system going — and no one really bats an eye.Continue reading “First-Quarter List Review! Successes and Oopses and Covid Improvements”
The toughest thing about writing isn’t the actual writing. Give me a topic and tell me to bang out 500 words and you’ll have something passable in the next 30 to 60 minutes. No, the toughest thing about writing — these days, at least — is the reality that I have only so many wordsContinue reading “On Writing and Life Right Now”
Welcome to Songs of Significance, chronicling the songs that have helped shape me and people across generations. Fly to the Angels, Slaughter, from the 1990 album, Stick It To Ya Line of Significance It hurts me way deep inside/When I turn and look and find/You’re not there. Rock music was on the verge of aContinue reading “SoS13: Fly to the Angels”
I believe there’s a sweet spot in life. It’s that space in which everything just feels balanced. There’s not too much work or too little play, the calendar is just full enough, your friends and family are who you need them to be and you are who they need you to be. Your job isContinue reading “Searching For The Sweet Spot”
So I wrote this big investigation, data-driven piece about what’s going to happen in the housing market. Then I wanted to turn it into an easily digestible flyer. PLUS, I wanted to give our CEO a chance to show his expertise. I hope that happened with this.
Welcome to Songs of Significance, chronicling the songs that have helped shape me and people across generations. Man in the Box, Alice in Chains, from the 1991 album, Facelift Line of Significance I’m the dog who gets beat/Shove my nose in shit. Today we look one of the four faces on my personal Mt. RushmoreContinue reading “SoS12: Man in the Box”
Welcome to Songs of Significance, chronicling the songs that have helped shape me and people across generations. Iris, Goo Goo Dolls, from the 1998 movie, City of Angels Line of Significance When everything feels like the movies, yeah, you bleed just to know you’re alive. If ever there were a line that encapsulate post-modernism, there’sContinue reading “SoS11: Iris”